Dr. Thi Vo was researching business models in healthcare for her MBA when she first learned about Direct Primary Care. After medical school, Dr. Vo knew she wanted to take the entrepreneurship route. She just needed to find a model that not only made business sense, but met the needs of her patients as well.
“I started learning about all the different models in healthcare, and I'll be honest with you, I thought there's no way DPC can be that great for the physician and the patient,” said Dr. Vo.
DPC has evolved from a business model to a movement among the physician community.
It is an alternative to the traditional fee-for-service insurance billing. Doctors who open up a DPC practice don’t accept insurance and charge patients a low-monthly fee. The fee typically covers comprehensive care and care coordination, but a wraparound insurance policy is recommended to cover emergencies.
Intrigued by the model, but skeptical of all the benefits being promoted, Dr. Vo decided to seek out more information on DPC from one of the pioneers – Dr. Josh Umbehr.
His DPC practice was in Kansas. Close enough to Dr. Vo’s medical school in Missouri that she gathered some of her fellow students for a visit to Dr. Umbehr’s clinic.
“At that point Dr. Umbehr’s practice was still relatively new. I wanted to see if DPC really works. That visit blew me away. I continued to follow him and the movement. I knew I was going to open a DPC clinic,” said Dr. Vo.
After medical school and residency, Dr. Vo thought it would be a few years before she could open her own clinic because she had to prioritize repayment of her educational loans.
That didn’t stop her DPC itch.
She decided to contact three direct primary clinics in Houston for employment. Dr. Geetinder Goyal of First Primary Care just happened to be expanding into a second location in the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.
“Our stars aligned perfectly; because he needed to open another clinic, and I desired to open my own DPC clinic. I partnered with Dr. Goyal and opened the Woodlands office as if it were my own,” said Dr. Vo.
When she first took charge of the Woodlands office, Dr. Vo expected to focus on building her location into a successful direct primary care practice. She didn’t realize Dr. Goyal had a bigger vision for the company.
“I figured once I built up my DPC that I’d be done. But now our mission is to truly fix healthcare and spread the DPC model to other physicians and patients by opening more locations so that more people can benefit. We’re also moving into providing businesses with healthcare solutions,” said Dr. Vo.
Growing up in Houston, Dr. Vo always wanted to be a resource for others. This is part of what has attracted her to the DPC movement.
“I wasn’t fulfilled in my previous career. I was excited, but it wasn’t challenging enough. I’ve always been drawn to helping others. Being an advocate for people. Going into medicine and working in direct primary care, it hits every spot,” said Dr. Vo.
In addition to becoming the Chief Medical Officer for First Primary Care before the COVID pandemic, Dr. Vo has been helping to launch Direct Care Physicians of Greater Houston because she believes the nonprofit will help raise awareness of DPC among the general public and other physicians.
As part of her educational efforts, she’s also hosted medical students from the University of Houston.
“I don’t feel like its work. I spend a lot of my personal time talking to other doctors because I see doctors burnt out. I’m so excited about all the new DPC clinics opening up in Houston. We have to spread DPC. I feel like together we can make it explode and exponentially grow. DPC is truly a win for the physician AND the patient.”
When asked about what she would like others to know about DPC, Dr. Thi Vo explained:
“Simply put, our current healthcare system is broken. It is not a healthcare system; it is a SICK-care system. The sicker you are, the more money a clinic makes unfortunately. Doctors and clinics are incentivized to see more and do more. The DPC model disrupts this! DPC aligns positively with patients to keep them healthy. Please push for price transparency and remove third party entities who are profiting off of healthcare. Let's remove the administrative burden. No other industry would allow so much government involvement. Allow the free market to work its magic. DPC is truly a win for the physicians and patients.”